Throat Pain Causes & When To Consult The Doctor

Overview of Throat Pain

Throat pain, also called pharyngitis, occurs due to inflammation in the throat. It happens when bacteria or viruses enter the pharynx, the tube at the back of our throat, between our voice box and tonsils. The bacteria causes inflammation in the pharynx and makes it red and swollen. It can also cause itchiness and dryness in the throat. People with throat pain have difficulty swallowing food due to infection. Some other bacteria called gonorrhea and chlamydia can also make the pharynx swell up which leads to increased throat pain. Sore throats usually get better in one or two days, but it is best to consult a doctor if you have other symptoms like swollen tonsils or fever.

Causes of Throat Pain

Throat pain mainly occurs due to a bacterial infection in the throat caused by strep throat. The following are some other causes of sore throat:

Allergies

Allergies in the respiratory system like sinusitis, asthma, and flu can also cause throat pain. People with dust allergies are more likely to have throat pain.

Smoking

Studies suggest that occasional smoking can cause respiratory problems like sore throat, cough and shortness of breath. The components in cigarette smoke can irritate the throat and cause inflammation. Even if you do not smoke but remain around people who smoke too often, you breathe the smoke passively. It can still cause throat pain.

Tumor

Tumor in the throat can cause lymph nodes to swell up. It might cause redness, swelling, inflammation, and throat pain.

Inflammation in voice box or tonsils

Sometimes, inflammation in the voice box, called laryngitis, and inflammation in tonsils, called tonsillitis, may increase inflammation in the pharynx.

Ulcers

Having too much spicy food can cause ulcers in the throat or gastrointestinal region. It may lead to inflammation and redness in the throat.

Weak immunity

This is also a common factor for weak immunity as it makes the body prone to infections. People with a weak immune system often get flu or allergies. They are at an increased risk of catching throat infections.

Symptoms of Sore Throat

In most cases, sore throat includes scratchiness, difficulty swallowing, coughing, dryness in the throat, and throat pain. Following are a few commonly symptoms of sore throat:

    • Runny nose
    • Cold and cough
    • Hoarse voice
    • Fever
    • Pain swallowing food
    • Swollen tonsils
    • Redness or white patches on the throat
    • Red spots on the inside of the mouth
    • Swollen throat

Health Risks Arising due to Sore Throat

Even though a sore throat is not alarming, it can cause health risks in rare cases.

Abscesses in tonsils

Severe throat pain for weeks can cause abscesses around tonsils which form pockets of pus near them.

Ear infection

Sometimes, the bacterial infection in the throat can also spread to the sinus or ear and increase pain.

Rheumatic fever

Strep throat, if not treated timely, can cause rheumatic fever that leads to inflammation in joints.

How to Prevent a Sore Throat?

Sore throat is a common problem, especially in winters. Here are a few ways to avoid a sore throat.

    • Keep your mouth covered while stepping out in areas with high air pollution.
    • Avoid coming in touch with people who have a cold or flu.
    • Avoid touching your eyes and mouth with dirty hands.
    • Always wash your hands before having food.
    • Avoid spicy and oily foods that can cause acid reflux.
    • Have a healthy diet to boost immunity.

Home Remedies for Sore Throat

You can treat a sore throat at home too without taking antibiotics. Here are a few effective home remedies for treating sore throat:

Gargle with salt water

One of the best throat pain home remedies is to gargle with lukewarm salt water. Gargling helps kill bacteria in the upper respiratory tract and calms throat inflammation. You can mix half a tablespoon of salt in water and gargle three times a day.

Have one tablespoon of honey

Honey has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce bacterial infection in the throat and soothe inflammation and redness. You can have one tablespoon of honey directly to reduce itching and dryness in the throat.

Drink ginger tea

Ginger tea is another best throat infection home remedy. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that help treat throat infections and reduce itchiness and swelling. You can also add spices like turmeric, black pepper, and cinnamon to ginger tea.

Use a humidifier

Sitting in a room with dry air for a long time can also cause irritation in the throat, as the mucus membranes present in the nose and throat get dry. You can use a humidifier or take steam to increase moisture in your nose and throat.

Drink cold liquids

If you are wondering how to cure a sore throat fast, you can also try drinking cold liquids. While this might seem like an unusual home remedy, drinking cold liquids can help calm inflammation in the throat and reduce pain and swelling.

Take antacids

You can also take over-the-counter antacids if you have a sore throat due to acid reflux.

When Should you Consult a Doctor for a Sore Throat?

You are likely to have a sore throat if you have sour or cold foods. Throat pain can get better in two-three days depending on the infection. However, if you have the below-given symptoms for many days, it is best to consult a doctor.

    • You have throat pain even after trying home remedies for treating a sore throat at home.
    • You frequently have a sore throat or throat pain, or difficulty in swallowing food.
    • If you have fever or chills along with throat pain.
    • If your immune system is weak because of chronic disease.
    • If there is blood in saliva.
    • If you have a lump in the throat, or you have an earache.

A doctor will check your symptoms to diagnose throat pain. However, they might also get a few tests done to confirm bacterial infection in the throat, or other causes of sore throat.

Conclusion

Throat pain, sore throat, or pharyngitis happens due to a bacterial or viral infection in the pharynx. There can be other several causes of throat pain like allergy, tonsils, tumor, or passive smoking. You can treat throat pain at home by drinking warm water and gargling with salted water 2-3 times a day. You must get relief from throat pain within 2-3 days. However, if the pain does not get better for weeks and you are finding it difficult to swallow food, you can take antibiotics. However, it is best to consult a doctor and get tests to find the cause of throat pain.

FAQs

Can sore throat be a symptom of COVID?

Yes, a sore throat can be a symptom of Covid. However, it is not necessary. You can check other Covid symptoms like loss of smell and taste, fever, cough and tiredness. If you have these symptoms along with sore throat, you must get a Covid test done.

What food should I avoid having in a sore throat?

You must avoid spicy and hot foods if you have a sore throat. It is best to have a semi-solid or liquid diet and avoid things that are hard to chew and swallow like crackers, crusty bread, coffee, potato chips, alcohol, nuts, and toast. Also avoid acidic foods like lemon, orange, tomatoes, and grapefruit.

Is pharyngitis a serious condition?

No, pharyngitis is not a serious condition in most cases. It can be treated in a few days by trying home remedies and taking necessary precautions. However, in rare cases, pharyngitis can be a cause of some underlying conditions, like a tumor in the throat. You should keep a check on symptoms and consult a doctor, if necessary.

References 

  1. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sore-throat/ 
  2. https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2018/february/sore-throat
  3. https://www.entandallergy.com/blog-posts/details/16-best-sore-throat-remedies-to-make-you-feel-better-fast-according-to-doctors